Saturday, 28 June 2014

Celebrating half-time

How long does the average Brit live these days? 80 years? I think it's pretty close to eight decades. Which means that the birthday I just celebrated marks half-time for my entire life. (In this figurative vision, I guess that it's also time to nip out to the toilet and put the kettle on?). 

So, double twenty. Sure goes quickly. 

I heard 'old people' say that to me over and over again, but it's so true. Life is short. 

Anyhow, how do you mark a few decades when you're in the middle of the desert? (I was half-dreading it. My 30th had been great - time with old friends and family. But how would that work in a location far from ALL those people).

On any normal Monday I would be teaching, but this was "mid-term break" (basically, a long weekend) so I had a free day. A whole Monday to celebrate. 

I used to hide away on birthdays, but time has changed me. Celebrate the years that God has given you. See some precious people.

Here are a few highlights:

1.By 8am I already had a huge smile on my face. I had crossed town and was sat with John and Regina, with their kids Joel, Judy and Kennedy, in one of the two small rooms they live in. They left their comfortable old life to come and speak to the Rendille about Christ. We read some Bible and prayed.  They also sang for me: "This is the day that the Lord has made... This is the hour... This is the minute... This is the birthday..." Five smiling people, singing and dancing: I didn't know where to look. I'd arrived in my shorts and t-shirt. John's family were decked in their 'Sunday best': shirts, waistcoats, dresses... After munching biscuits and slurping chai, I was off to see some teachers.   

2.Oscar, Paul and Mike all live at Amina's Guest House. During the week we all work from the same staff room. How was this going to work out? Little did I know that they had planned to preach at me. A "preach-off." Oscar crouched, pouted, smiled, flung his hands around and within two minutes had completed his message. Paul, who was wearing luminous pink shorts over a formal-looking shirt and trousers, stood and commanded the 'crowd'. Before I knew what was happening I was up there, joining in the preach-fest. So THIS is how to spend a birthday morning!?

3.Mike walked me on to Zulakha's for chai. Eric and Daisy were standing outside: these two Kenyan teachers from the Secondary School always bring a smile to my face: humble and happy. What more could you ask for?  

4.Kiambo lives in a traditional Rendille house on the edge of town and he was next on my list. He'd gathered a few more teachers (including two of the friendliest Muslim guys you're ever likely to meet: Mohaa and Jillo). After a few photos, sodas and pancakes I was off home for lunch. 

To cut a long story short, by the end of the day I felt so blessed. Paige and Kim, the two American girls who live on the same compound as me, were so thoughtful all day. For example, while I was away in the morning, Kim was making a chocolate cake with icing... quite the treat out here (i.e. it's my first one all year). The afternoon was spent watching "How to train your dragon" with a few kids - great film! And still I had been asked to go to Jim and Laura's for pudding. I arrived to find presents, balloons, and even ice-cream. I was overwhelmed, having never seen ice-cream in Korr before. Somehow Laura had managed to find every reference to '40' in the Bible and chatted through the list. Naturally, I'm not a thoughtful guy. Thoughtfulness is alien to me. All the more reason to be impressed by the thoughtfulness of others. 

I'm so thankful for the memories and to those who made it special. 

Let me finish with what Daisy said to me, suggesting that this might be my attitude for the next forty years: Psalm 34 v 1

I will extol the Lord at all times;
    his praise will always be on my lips.

Sounds good to me! 

Saturday, 7 June 2014

We all need encouraging.

True, isn't it? We all need encouraging. But when did you last encourage someone else? (When did I?)

The encouragement I received was at a gathering of mission partners who live and work in Northern Kenya. We had all arrived in Kurungu for a weekend to pray.  
Warm-hearted folk
The sun shone. The stories came tumbling out. And I was encouraged. What a difference it makes when people really listen to you, know where you're coming from and give an encouraging response. 

I had a great surprise when I found out who I would be sharing a room with: Josh and Frazer. Because we have mutual friends back in England, I'd already received lots of information about Frazer and his team-mates, but never actually met the guy. It was a real tonic to hear another British accent and speak about familiar people and situations. He's doing remarkably well, given that his team are living almost entirely off the grid, seeking to share the love of Jesus with those who have never heard of Him. I've gotta say, I'm pretty impressed with his "missionary beard." 
Cup of tea, sir?
But the encouragement was not over. Two U.S. gals had turned up (Paige and Kim) and were going to come back to Korr to be part of our team for a couple of months. People to talk to after school? Fantastic! Okay, so one of them called me, "Dad" but we're all getting a little older now, aren't we? 
The Korr collective: Jim, Laura, me, Paige, Kim
After a couple of movie nights and campfire singing under the stars, I managed to sneak a cheeky (free) flight over the mountains and back home.

Kurungu runway

Beautiful flight
So who are you going to encourage next? 

Or, in the words of Hebrews 3v13 ... "encourage one another daily..."